From 2 July 2013 till 29 September 2013 the FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment organized a public consultation about the draft marine spatial plan (MSP) and the environmental impact assessment. The objective of the marine spatial planning is to balance the sectorial interests and bring them into the framework of the marine ecosystem.

The marine spatial planning vision is based on a clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse sea. This long term vision has been translated into concrete environmental, security, economic, cultural, social and scientific objectives for the Belgian part of the North Sea for the period 2014-2020.

The MSP is adopted by Royal Decree (RD), in which the coordinates of the delimitated zones are fixed, together with the applicable rules and the modifying articles of other regulations. Moreover, some annexes are joint to the RD to outline the spatial context, to further explain the policy choices, to set forth some concrete points of action and – not unimportant – to graphically represent all zones on comprehensible maps (see below for the full MSP).

Results of the public consultation

The public consultation has produced a total amount of 140 comments and proposals, coming from private persons, authorities, associations and companies.

All comments have been carefully considered and the plan has been adapted at several places (see  below for a list of all comments and how they have been treated).

The comments mainly addressed:

- The restrictions on professional and recreational fishery, in the special area for conservation ‘Vlaamse Banken’;
- The sharpening of the nature conservation measures in the special area for conservation  ‘Vlaamse Banken’ and the extension of the zones without seabed-disturbing;
- The level of detail of the impact of the development of new activities, such as the energy-atolls, the ‘plug at sea’ and the port expansions (with specific comments on the exact delineation);
- Clarity pertaining to the shipping routes;
- Clarity on the conditions under which aquaculture projects will be possible;
- The further involvement of the public services and the stakeholders in the implementation of the MSP.

Some important changes that have been made to the MSP as a result of the public consultation are:

- The insertion of some exceptions (shrimp fishery by horse, by foot and under conditions by boat) to the ban on seabed disturbing fishery techniques in the ‘Vlaamse Banken’;
- The shift and the reduction of the zone to stock energy on the Wenduinebank and the reduction of the zone for the ‘plug at sea’;
- The renaming of some shipping routes and traffic routes;
- The authorization to establish aquaculture projects, as far as the eutrophication level (level of fertilization) decreases;
- Clear actions and changes of the procedure to ensure the involvement of authorities and stakeholders in the follow-up and evaluation of the MSP.

Some comments that have not lead to changes to the MSP, are the following:

- No additional wind farm zones have been designated by the actual MSP;
- The existing marine protected areas have not been expanded;
- No additional zone to test new methods of coastal protection is designated.

While treating the contributions of the public consultation, the philosophy of the draft MSP has been maintained as much as possible. Simultaneously, the contributions have improved the plan. The adopted MSP is the result of this dynamic.

The draft MSP has been adopted by the King on 20 March 2014.

The full plan and all comments received

The following documents can be downloaded:

- The summary of the marine spatial plan, that consists of a summary of the Royal Decree and four annexes;

- The final declaration which explains how the contributions from the public consultation as regards the draft MSP and the environment impact report have been taken into account

- The explanatory documents, which explain by component of the MSP the answers to all received contributions of the public consultation (the answers are written in the language in which the comments were formulated):
Questions and comments public consultation with answers Royal Decree to establish the marine spatial plan
Questions and comments public consultation with answers annex 1
Questions and comments public consultation with answers annex 2
Questions and comments public consultation with answers annex 3
Questions and comments public consultation with answers annex 4
Questions and comments public consultation with answers general comments
Questions and comments public consultation with answers environmental impact report

- The brochure ‘Something is moving at sea… A marine spatial plan for the Belgian part of the North Sea’, which explains in a clear language the content of the MSP.